Chad Spensky, Founder and CEO of Allthenticate, joins the pod today to talk about his path toward founding Allthenticate, building a Houston business, and why passwords are on their way out the door. On the business side, Chad talks about Houston as a hotspot for tech startups and why he is excited to grow a business in the city. The cybersecurity industry has failed society, Chad says, and now, he’s doing his part in improving security and usability.
[00:00] Start of Episode - Going Passwordless with Allthenticate’s Chad Spenksy
[02:51] Getting involved with the MIT Lincoln Lab
[07:06] Moving to Houston & falling in love with Texas
[12:45] Raising investor money for Allthenticate
[15:20] Going passwordless with your phone
[17:33] Phones vs Yubikeys
[19:46] Engaging with the startup ecosystem in Houston
How did you raise money? Did you talk to potential investors in Texas?
Chad has been working on Allthenticate as his side-project for his entire professional career. After defending his PhD dissertation, Chad wanted to make this side project something even more substantial. Paying interns and co-founders out of his checking account, Chad took a leap, leaving Santa Barbara for a new headquarters in Houston. Right away, Chad got to networking with VCs and corporations, and met with Silverton Partners to get a term sheet signed.
“I always say I've moved to Houston for love and then fell in love with Houston. It's awesome for startups. It's incredible.”
What’s your personal view on cybersecurity?
Growing up as an offensive hacker, Chad knows both sides of the cybersecurity world. Going from wearing the black hat to putting on a white hat, Chad now stays somewhere in between. Growing up, Chad never had a great impression of the industry and believes that a lot of cybersecurity technology has failed its users. They’re still getting hacked, Chad says, and it’s not improving fast enough.
“I really feel like the industry failed society. If you look at the products that are coming out of cybersecurity companies, most people don't like them, and they're still getting hacked. And they're like, okay, that's not a good scoreboard, one of those should be really high flying.”
Is there a demand for no passwords?
Early on in his career, Chad recognized a need and a demand for something better than passwords— but this did not come without a slew of technical hurdles. The technology for security was there, Chad explains, but applications of it often fell short on usability. With smartphones, trusted execution environments, and secure elements, Chad saw a window of opportunity to have some fun in the industry and change the password landscape forever.
“The thing I've been trying to do my whole career is: can you have usability and security [with one password]?”
How does Allthenticate work and what’s behind it?
Chad saw the streamlined tech in smart cards and wanted to use that for Allthenticate. Relying on hardware and a physical interface transaction, smart cards add a new layer of security. With Allthenticate, Chad wants to take things a step further in security and usability without compromising either. Theoretically, he knew he could make it work, but had had to turn every single maybe into a “yes” by putting the hardware for Allthenticate into the smartphones already in our pockets.
“You don't know if I steal your password, and that's a really bad thing. You'll know if I steal your YubiKey, but probably not until you go to use it at work. If I steal your phone during this podcast, you're gonna know the second I walk out of this room.”